Loved, loved, loved this book! British-Canadian-Man-o’-the-World author Tom Rachman really hit it out of the park with his debut novel, The Imperfectionists (2010). One of the Golden Rules of Writing – as opposed to the “26 Golden Rules for Writing Well” – is to write what you know, and Mr. Rachman(inoff), like a skilled pianist tickling a set of ivories with nimble fingertips that are a natural extension of his hands, did exactly that with a motley crew of characters who were mostly holed up in Rome, Italy.
As with Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad and Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, the numerous “short stories” which make up the novel are very much interconnected. Our job as readers is to connect the dots; Mr. Rachman’s job, as the puppet master, was to spin a series of (in this case journalistic-related) yarns, one after the other, and have each one be strong enough to stand on its own.
Just like the title of the novel suggests, the story is rife with flawed, imperfect, screwed-up misfits – and that recipe for literary deliciousness comes across as nothing short of thoroughly engaging and believable. Set around a fictional International Herald Tribune-esque newspaper established in Rome by an eccentric millionaire named Cyrus Ott in the 1950s, right up until its demise half a century later, we’re taken on an unforgettable journey through newsrooms and bedrooms, bylines and deadlines, all the while nodding our collective heads up and down and thinking, That’s so true!
Even though Mr. Rachman was only in his early 30s when he penned this book, he manages to come up with some astute, humourous and memorable lines along the way:
“You know, there’s that silly saying ‘We’re born alone and we die alone’ – it’s nonsense. We’re surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we’re alone.”
“If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power.”
Summer, as some believe, may be the season for light, fluff-driven literature, but if you’re looking for a quick read that is sure to keep you turning the page with its countless nuggets of insight into the human condition, go and get yourself a copy of The Imperfectionists right now.